25 March 2007

Neuroscientists at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) are astounded at the detail available to them in brain images being generated by UQ’s new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) spectrometer.

QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett said the new MRI represented a quantum advance in brain-imaging technology.

“This is an extremely exciting development. We’ve learned a lot about how we think the brain works, but we’ve never been able to look at it in real time,” Professor Bartlett said.

“This imaging capability will allow us for the first time to rapidly identify and really interrogate the mechanisms controlling brain function and apply these discoveries to the treatment of disease.

“And it puts Queensland right in front of the pack … leading the world in discovery in this area.”

Professor Bartlett said QBI scientists were currently using the technology to look at molecules they believed would help with the regrowth of damaged nerve cells following trauma such as spinal cord injury.

“If this proves successful in animal models we could conceivably go to trials within the next 18 months to two years,” he said.

“Imaging technology such as this is vital if we are to address the overwhelming incidence of neurological disorders on the community.”

Located at The University of Queensland’s Centre for Magnetic Resonance (CMR) and purchased with the assistance of Qld Government Smart State Funding, the new 16.4T MRI wide-bore spectrometer is one of fewer than six such machines anywhere in the world.

CMR Acting Director Professor Ian Brereton said the technology enabled scientists to obtain exquisitely detailed images of intact biological specimens, at spatial resolution approaching the cellular level.

“This instrumentation is a key addition to the imaging capacity being built at this university to support major initiatives in molecular imaging, cognitive and anatomical neuroscience, biomarker development and nanotechnology,” Professor Brereton said.

“As part of the Queensland NMR Network, these world-class facilities will provide all researchers throughout Queensland and the region with access to state-of-the-art imaging technology and expertise.”

Among the many benefits expected to flow from long-term application of this technology include the:

• capacity for scientists to study brain function at the cellular level, allowing researchers to image at high resolution, and better understand how memory and learning are regulated;

• development of improved diagnostic procedures and treatments for sufferers of neurological disorders ranging from dementia to Motor Neuron Disease;

• opportunity to study tissue from stroke and other neurological disease models;

• development of new imaging protocols and markers to study cell function and movement; and

• capacity to conduct clinical trials in the animal model, a vital step in the development of safe therapeutic treatments for humans.

Leading neuroscientists from Australia, Korea and the United States will attend an advanced-imaging symposium in Brisbane on Wednesday, March 28.

Queensland Minister for State Development, The Hon. John Mickel, MP, will officially commission the new MRI at 10 am on Tuesday, March 27.


Professor Perry Bartlett (07) 3346 9562

Professor Ian Brereton (07) 3365 4100

Registered members of the media are invited to accompany the official party on a tour of the 16.4T MRI spectrometer in the Gehrmann Laboratories (Building #60) at about 10.30am. Anyone wishing to enter the High Field NMR Laboratory must comply with strict safety guidelines.

QBI media liaison: Ron Hohenhaus 0434 601 066 or (07) 3346 7543.